Voyager 2 probe moves into interstellar space

NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space, could become 'the only trace of human civilization'

In August 2012 Voyager 1 became the first human-made vehicle in history to reach the heliopause and enter interstellar space.

But we shouldn't have to wait a whole year, like we did with Voyager 1, as we have that original data to go on to confirm when Voyager 2 is no longer feeling the Sun's winds on its back. Of course, as Voyager 2 pulls farther away, that time will only increase eventually to a point where it will be no longer possible with its radioactive power source running out.

And chief scientist on the mission, Professor Edward Stone, confirmed it. The heliopause is the outermost region of the heliosphere, akin to the surface of a bubble, which separates the hot, tenuous solar wind from the cold and dense environment of the interstellar medium. It takes almost 17 hours for a radio signal, traveling at the speed of light from Earth, to reach Voyager 2 - as a comparison, it takes a little more than eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to Earth. Voyager 2 and its sibling spacecraft, Voyager 1, are the farthest-travelled spacecraft, as they are both more than 11 billion miles from Earth, NASA officials said in a press release.

Data from instruments aboard the spacecraft showed it crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere, a protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields produced by the sun, on November 5, the USA space agency said. For starters, it makes sense to say that the Solar System extends to the edge of the influence of the Sun.

Our star system is surrounded by a hotchpotch of small objects called the Oort Cloud which are still affected by the sun's gravity. As a comparison, Pluto's average distance from the sun is "only" 40 AU!

Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere

"This is what we've all been waiting for", Suzanne Dodd, NASA's Voyager project manager, said in a statement. "To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun's influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory". It's expected to take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, and perhaps 30,000 years to fly beyond it.

The two spacecraft were created to last five years and study Jupiter and Saturn. Each probe contains a 'Golden Record', curated by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan that contains a collection of music, sounds, and images from earth. "So it's especially exciting to be able to think that we will be having a mission in the very same space that I have been studying, and many others, from afar".

The probe's present location is some 18 billion kilometres from Earth.

Voyager's mission controllers communicate with the probes using NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), a global system for communicating with interplanetary spacecraft.

Technically, none of the two ships are out of the solar system yet.

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